On this Trivia Tuesday, did you know that you could once actually drive up to view Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park, instead of the 1.5-mile walk you take now? You can read about this and other interesting facts about this unique hot spring in today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler.
To read the story, click on either of the images above.
Thanks to people, this pool has changed its colors due to all the trash and coins folks have thrown into the water. Just a reminder: none of those colorful hot springs are wishing wells or trash cans, folks. They are unique, rare, and delicate geologic features that deserve our wonder, respect, and appreciation, not rocks, kleenex, snack wrappers, and coins.
Heart Spring, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature > 190 degrees Fahrenheit
Belgian Pool, Upper Geyser Basin, temperature ~ >150 degrees Fahrenheit
Did you know that the colors of the beautiful hot springs you see at Yellowstone National Park indicate the water temperature? Make no mistake, you do NOT want to soak in any of these after a long day hiking. Rule of thumb: the bluer the H2O, the hotter it is. And the orange, yellow, and brown colors you see ringing the springs and leading away from them are thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria.
“Bobby socks” around Opalescent Pool in Black Sand Basin, Yellowstone National Park
“Bobby socks” along the Fountain Paint Pots Nature Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Hey folks, it’s Fun Fact Friday!
If you’ve ever visited Yellowstone National Park, you’ve seen these dead, desolate trees with the white rings around their bases. Those are called “Bobby socks” and are formed when the trees absorb the silica (natural glass) from the thermal waters. This, of course, kills the trees and “freezes” them to keep them standing.
According to the NPS, Sheep Rock (that pointy-peaked mountain), in the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, gets its name from the bighorn sheep that once populated its slopes. At the top of Sheep Rock is the Picture Gorge Basalt. That brown line across the middle part of the mountain is the Picture Gorge Ignimbrite (pumice and volcanic tuff). This ignimbrite makes a nice marker bed by which geologists can place and date geologic events. The green soils you see in the second image are colored by the mineral celadonite. Celadonite comes from the French word for “sea green.”
I love geology. I went to school to study it. So when I travel, I like to read about the geology of the places I visit and the roads I travel. In hindsight, I wish, now, that I’d have bought and looked through the Roadside Geology of Oregon, by Marli B. Miller *before* rather than after I’d driven to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. At least, then, I would have been able to follow the mile markers and understood what I was seeing.
Anyway, I’d stopped here because I happened to turn my head to look at the scenery right when my car was passing by these awesomly-colored outcroppings. Turns out, my inner geology radar must have been working intuitively. What you see here is called an angular “unconformity.” An angular unconformity is – in easy terms – when you see tilted beds (the green and reddish outcropping of beds) overlain by straight beds (the red-brown lines of columnar basalts you see above. It shows there is a gap in the geologic time record. So, if you are following a series of formations along a geographic distance, you might suddenly see that one formation or sediment layer of that formation is totally missing from the order of deposition, and all you see is this contact line dividing angular tilting beds from straight layers above. Any of this make sense? If not, then just admire the pretty landscape.
This image was captured using my new Sony Alpha a7r IV and 24-105mm lens. I am loving this camera!
It’s Fun Fact Friday! Here’s some interesting facts for you if you happen to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon.
In the first photo, that’s the first hill you’ll see that will get your attention as you drive past the sign welcoming you to the Painted Hills Unit. The top of this hill is capped with a volcanic tuff called the Picture Gorge Ignimbrite. This tuff is 28.7 MILLION years old.
The other images show other sides to this same hill as you drive further along the gravel road into the Painted Hills Unit. The red and tan soils are called paleosols, and the red paleosols are indicative of a warmer, wet, tropical to subtropical climate, while the tan soils represent a cooler, drier, more temperate climate.
Those blue-ish shadowed mountains in the background of a couple of the images are the Sutton Mountains.
Blue Star Pool on a chilly autumn morning, Yellowstone National Park
It’s Trivia Tuesday, folks! Here’s one from Janet Spencer’s “Yellowstone Trivia”: One ranger set out to remove the pennies from Upper Geyser Basin’s Blue Star Pool. After 15 minutes of work, he removed 700 pennies. That means 700 people figured “just one penny” wouldn’t hurt.
As a National Park placard says near another hot spring in Yellowstone National Park: “Thermal features are not trash cans or wishing wells – they are among earth’s rarest geologic treasures …”
Do your part, don’t litter, pack out what you pack in, and report any vandalism to a park ranger.
A morning alone with Solitary Geyser, Yellowstone National Park
This pretty geyser is indeed, solitary, sitting all by itself and located a short hike from either the Upper Geyser Basin boardwalk or on the way up or down the trail from Observation Point. This is one of those geysers that people tampered with way back when they didn’t understand geysers or geology that well. They wanted to use the hot spring water so they put a pipe in it, which lowered the water level several feet and caused the then-hot spring to turn into a geyser that erupted every few minutes. They removed the pipe and the water level rose again, but it continued to be a geyser that now erupts every 5-7 minutes (give or take). It’s not a huge geyser, though. It sort of “burbles” and erupts about 3-4 feet (so the nearby sign says). It was difficult to even see it erupt on that chilly day because of all the steam. I could only tell it was going to erupt by watching for ripples in the water in the far left corner of the geyser, which occurred just before that “burble” of an eruption.
I first visited Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone National Park during the evening on the previous day from this shot. It was overcast and getting dark and I didn’t even notice this little side area next to the entry drive to the parking lot. I didn’t see this until I visited the next morning, a lovely, sunny day. I’ve been reading: TravelBrains’ “Yellowstone Expedition Guide” and learned this interesting fact: the trees you see here are dead, of course. The bottoms of their trunks are white because they absorbed the hot water in the area, which is filled with silica in solution. That silica comes out of solution and is what has colored those trunk bottoms. It’s the first step in petrification of the trees. Oh, and Black Sand Basin gets it’s name from the black obsidian sand grains in the area. Cool, huh?
Artist Paint Pots Geothermal Basin with Mount Holmes in the distance, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
It’s a short walk along a well-trod path to get to the boardwalk beginning the loop around the Artist Paint Pots basin. As I stepped onto the boardwalk, I passed a couple of men talking to each other. Another friend approached and they told him that their wives were off looking at the sights while they remained there, since they were not that enthused about the area. Lo and behold, as I passed the men, their wives returned and one of them said sarcastically “Well, that was a blast.” They were not impressed, either.
I don’t know what those two couples were expecting, but I have a feeling they have not been reading my photo column in the National Parks Traveler, where I urge people to 1) keep their expectations on the low side since it’s likely they will not see exactly what they expect to see, and 2) observe what is around them. Really *look* at where they are and what they see. I am assuming that the couples, like many other people who come to this area, were a little jaded and didn’t stop to think about what they were standing upon: thin crust with a busy geothermal system beneath them. It’s amazing that we can enter a national park that is so geologically active. How many other places in the world can you see so many active geysers, hot springs and fumeroles all in one area? How many other places can you actually hear the hissing of the steam and see the bubbling water and mud pots? I know there are some, but I’ll wager not that many that you can actually get to. When you are someplace like Artist Paint Pots, you are walking beside geysers and hot springs with boiling or near-boiling water.
These couples probably did not appreciate the many colorful hot springs around them (hence the name “Artist Paint Pots”), or the panoramic view that included a snow-iced Mount Holmes in the far distance.
I brought with me the mindset of a geologist and photographer, so I saw beauty everywhere I walked in that small basin. As a matter of fact, that’s what I told a retired gentleman and his wife as he approached the trailhead, with a daughter and active 6-year old in tow. He stopped me and said: “Two questions: how far to get there and is it worth it?” I told him I thought it was worth it but I was seeing everything through a geologic and photographic background. I then told him about the reactions of those two couples. I told him that I’d also seen another couple with their 4-year old child who was managing the walk and the uphill climb to the bridge overlook (which is where I stood to take this photo) with no problems. I said to him that they’d have to judge for themselves as to whether or not the hike and the view were worth it. I certainly thought both were.
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